When Carrie Abernathy books space for a meeting, she typically reserves every inch of the venue. However, a few months ago, Abernathy — the lead meeting planner at Altria and the executive director of Association for Women in Events — found herself sharing the venue with another group. It didn’t seem like a big deal until her general session was interrupted by sounds coming from that group.
“They started a drum circle,” Abernathy said in “Get to Yes in Contract Negotiations” session at PCMA Convening Leaders 2020 in January. “A very loud drum circle.”
And getting that pounding to stop was just not possible. “We couldn’t do anything at that point because we weren’t covered,” Abernathy said, by the “quiet enjoyment” clause. “Even if it did, there were no real consequences or monetary benefits coming back to us. We kind of lost our general session,” she said. “It was a really hard lesson that was learned.”
That experience gave Abernathy a deeper appreciation for the importance of specificity in contract language. “You need to define consequences and remedies,” she told the audience in San Francisco. “So for all of our future contracts, we have a clause that states that if someone is in the space near us, the hotel has a responsibility to ask them if they have any noise-producing events taking place.”
From the Venue’s Vantage Point
A neighboring event’s noise can be a major headache for event professionals, but as Joshua Grimes, attorney at law, Grimes Law Offices, LLC, pointed out in the session, hotels and convention centers need to prioritize profitability. “They are going to maximize the use of their space,” Grimes said. “It’s incumbent on planners to ask the [venue] to take precautions to make sure your group is protected.”
Grimes also noted that venues “may not always understand what your meeting is about.” For example, he said, one hotel that he used to represent once hosted two events at the same time on a Saturday — one, a women’s group that was advocating against alcohol and tobacco consumption and a wedding that “was very much about alcohol and tobacco consumption.”
That kind of mix is awkward, but Grimes said that meeting planners must take steps to educate venues about their groups and their goals. “You need to be clear,” he said, “about your expectations.”
Shared-space issues are not the only items you need to pay particular attention to in today’s contract negotiations. Watch the entire contract negotiations session for more lessons about pressing issues including AV, labor costs, and liabilities related to cannabis use.
David McMillin is an associate editor at Convene.